The Purpose of a System is What It Does

The first of what is hopefully an in-depth guide from Anil Dash on how to think about the systems we’d like to change.

A potential negative aspect of understanding that the purpose of a system is what it does, is that we are then burdened with the horrible but hopefully galvanizing knowledge of this reality. For example, when our carceral system causes innocent people to be held in torturous or even deadly conditions because they could not afford bail, we must understand that this is the system working correctly. It is doing the thing it is designed to do. When we shout about the effect that this system is having, we are not filing a bug report, we are giving a systems update, and in fact we are reporting back to those with agency over the system that it is working properly.

Sit with it for a minute. If this makes you angry or uncomfortable, or repulses you, then you are understanding the concept correctly.

I remember when it was pointed out to me that poverty and homelessness were not the results of things going tragically wrong - they were signs things were working exactly as they were designed to work.